An open door has been offered by the Minister of Primary Industries if a significant proportion of the red meat sector come to him with a proposal to better the industry.
Speaking at the Beef + Lamb NZ annual general meeting today in Feilding, Minister Nathan Guy outlined his vision for the red meat sector and said that he is a firm believer that Government’s role is as an enabler.
He noted that the red meat sector has many challenges and opportunities. “This sector has been one of continual change, mostly for the good. This change has been as a result of innovations, new market demands and changing environments.”
Guy rebutted public comments that the red meat sector is on a downward spiral. “Not a week goes by where I don’t hear how dairy is taking over the sector; how the red meat sector is on a downward spiral; and how New Zealand is becoming one giant dairy farm,” he said.
“This is not what New Zealand wants and it is not what I want,” he commented, adding that he was optimistic about the red meat sector’s future.
The meat industry is “having a pretty good year” he noted, pointing to exports being projected $1.2 billion higher than initially forecast and that prices were higher – principally because of increased demand in China – and the volume of production hadn’t been as low as originally feared following last year’s drought.
Instead, he urged industry to focus on solutions and a plan to life the performance of the industry as a whole.
Innovation is key and is why Government has committed the most funding of innovation in the red meat sector, said the Minister. Together industry and government are investing $326 million into the sector and the investment is expected to generated around $2 billion in benefits to the economy.
“The range of projects is vast and exciting,” he said. “From farm management systems in the Farm IQ programme, to turning traditionally low value offcut products into higher value added products in areas such as ingredients and health products in the FoodPlus programme.
“These projects are cutting edge and are already showing great progress in delivering more profitability into the red meat sector.”
He urged a better job of collaborating in the sector and noted that, again, Primary Growth Partnership projects are making a start on it.
Developing market opportunities is another area Guy covered. Government is working on trade access and is also investing additional staff in key and emerging markets: six more staff are being placed into China; one more each into Jakarta and Dubai, with another four positions to be announced.
“It is vital we have enough people in these markets to broaden our presence, to deepen relationships and to be on hand should anything go wrong.”
Constantly talking doom and gloom is the best way to put the sector into a downward spiral. “It is not true that the meat industry is on the way out,” he said. “This industry is capable of truly leading the world with its innovative and profitable approach to selling high quality meat.”
Guy acknowledged and congratulated Meat Industry Excellence for hard work and dedication to “pursue a cause they really believe in.”
The Minister’s door is open, if a significant portion of the sector, “and this means across the whole sector,” he emphasised, “comes together with a solution of how they want to better the industry. I will listen and I will do what I can to support the sector,” the Minister said.
“Any substantial change needs to come with a very clear and very broad level of support. I am not prepared to interfere in the structure of a sector without the support of that sector. The Government doesn’t own the industry, you do.”
Referring to MIE’s proposal of a red meat sector summit, he said he encourages all members of the industry to collaborate, talk and to resolve issues and doesn’t think that “anyone wants another talk fest or meeting where only a few turn up”. Any meaningful event must have the commitment of all the players of the industry including MIE, B+LNZ, the Meat Industry Association, Federated Farmers, the processors and the banks.
[Ed: With the Red Meat Sector Conference taking place in July, I know the perfect spot Minister.]